Westland Tai Poutini National Park extends from the highest peaks of Ka Tiritiri o te Moana/Southern Alps to the remote beaches of the wild West Coast. On the eastern border continues national park Mt. Cook. Both parks are parts of Te Wahipounamu South-West New Zealand World Heritage Area. In area of Southern Alps are over 140 glaciers.
Maori traveled the coast and mountain passes for centuries. The mountains were of great importance to Maori people and are revered as the ancestors of Ngai Tahu – the tangata whenua or ‘people of the land’. But whole area was pretty remote and just a slightly settled. It remind like this until the gold was discovered. Remains of old gold mining towns can still be seen today.
The park's scenery is dramatic. Mountains peaks are cover by permanent snow. Deep valleys are full up with glaciers. Some of them, for example Fox/Te Moeka o Tuawe a Franz Josef/Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere, descend right down to the lowlands just a few meters above sea level. Nowhere else in the World and at this latitude glaciers does not get so near to the sea level like here. Franz Josef glacier moves in average a meter per day. The maximum was even five meters per day. Steep slopes allows such a high speed.
In area of Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier is several hiking tracks. Commercial trips, sightseeing flights, glaciers landing - all this is offer for a high price for both glaciers. Another tracks lead to several lakes and in their surfaces you can see reflections of surrounding mountains. The best well is Lake Matheson. In southern part of the park are hot springs. You can get there by Copland Track.
I visited only Franz Josef glacier. Beautiful overlook offers lookout point et the end of Roberts point track. Return hike takes around five hours.
Small Franz Josef Glacier Village serves like a main base for all services in a large area. I stayed in Rainforest camp, NZ$10 person/night in a tent. It is still five kilometers to the Franz Josef Glacier from here. The expansive commercial transportation is offered but maybe you will have luck with hitchhiking.